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‘I said I was Jew-ish’: GOP Congressman-elect walks back biography ’embellishments’

After media reports reveal he isn’t grandson of German refugees who fled the Nazis, a former Goldman Sachs employee or a college graduate, George Santos says he’s not quitting

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent

Republican candidate for New York's 3rd Congressional District George Santos, right, talks to a voter while campaigning outside a Stop and Shop store, November 5, 2022, in Glen Cove, New York. (AP/Mary Altaffer)
File: Republican candidate for New York's 3rd Congressional District George Santos, right, talks to a voter while campaigning outside a Stop and Shop store, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Glen Cove, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

George Santos, a Republican elected to the US Congress in November’s elections, admitted on Monday to “embellishing” large parts of his resume while campaigning — from details on his Jewish heritage to his education and work experience.

“My sins here are embellishing my resume. I’m sorry,” Santos said in an interview with the New York Post during which he insisted his conduct was not disqualifying and that he planned to fill New York’s 3rd congressional seat next week.

On his campaign website, Santos said his maternal grandparents were refugees who fled from the Nazis to Brazil. He also said that he counted as his own his mother’s “Jewish background beliefs” as well as his father’s Catholicism.

But the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported last week that Santos’s claim that his mother was Jewish had no evidence and was suspicious given her name, common among Brazilian Catholics, and her online obituary, which did not mention any Jewish identity.

The Forward also identified records indicating that Santos’s grandparents had not in fact fled the Nazis. Santos’s claim to be the descendant of refugees of anti-Jewish persecution, it appears, is also a lie.

Genealogist Megan Smolenyak told CNN after researching Santos’s family history: “There’s no sign of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage and no indication of name changes along the way.”

Then-Republican candidate George Santos for New York’s 3rd Congressional District campaigns outside a Stop and Shop store, November 5, 2022, in Glen Cove, New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Pressed on the matter, Santos told the Post. “I never claimed to be Jewish… I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”

In a subsequent interview with the New York-based City & State media outlet, Santos added, “It just strikes me so odd that people are rushing to disinherit me from being Jewish or [from being allowed] to care for Israel and Judaism in a time and an era where antisemitism is at an all-time rise.”

He told the Post, “I campaigned talking about the people’s concerns, not my resume…I intend to deliver on the promises I made during the campaign.”

The New York Times raised questions last week about the life story that Santos, 34, had presented during the campaign.

The Queens resident had said he had obtained a degree from Baruch College in New York, but the school said that couldn’t be confirmed.

“I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume,” he told the Post. “I own up to that… We do stupid things in life.”

Santos had also said he had worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, but neither company could find any records verifying that.

US Representative-elect George Santos, a New York Republican, speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, November 19, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Santos told the Post he had “never worked directly” for either financial firm, saying he had used a “poor choice of words.”

He told the Post that Link Bridge, an investment company where he was a vice president, did business with both.

Santos first ran for Congress in 2020 and lost. He ran again in 2022 and won in the district that includes some Long Island suburbs and a small part of Queens. With his win last month, Santos became the first openly-gay Republican elected to Congress.

JTA and AP contributed to this report.

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